The Dodgers’ season is over, and one can only hope manager Don Mattingly learned a couple of lessons tonight.
The Giants won 4-3 in L.A. on Tuesday night to end the Dodgers’ playoff hopes and clinch the second wild card for the Cardinals. St. Louis could have clinched with a win earlier in the evening, but the Cardinals to the Reds 3-1.
The Dodgers were down 2-1 in the fifth tonight when Mattingly opted to intentionally walk Angel Pagan with a man on second, setting up a double play with one out. Marco Scutaro immediately followed with a two-run double, giving the Giants a 4-1 lead. The Giants could have kept adding on from there, but after Pablo Sandoval singled, Matt Guerrier came in and managed to strike out MVP candidate Buster Posey.
The Dodgers were able to bounce back in the seventh. A.J. Ellis hit a two-run homer to pull the team within 4-3. Mark Ellis then doubled, only to get thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple with one out. Shane Victorino immediately followed with a triple, yet he was stranded on base when Matt Kemp struck out to end the frame.
Mattingly can’t be blamed for that one. His big decision in the ninth didn’t work out, though. After Andre Ethier singled to start the inning, Mattingly sent up A.J. Ellis to bunt. The catcher fell behind 0-2 trying to get the bunt down and then swung and missed on a slider well outside the strike zone. Once that happened, Mattingly decided to insert Dee Gordon as a pinch-runner and Bobby Abreu as a pinch-hitter. Abreu flew out to left, and though Gordon was able to steal second base with two out, Mark Ellis had his looping liner to center caught to end it.
Barry Zito got his 15th win tonight. The Giants have won each of his last 11 starts, with Zito going 7-0 during the span. He appears likely to be the team’s No. 4 starter in the postseason over Ryan Vogelsong.
Chris Capuano took the loss for the Dodgers. He gave up solo homers to Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias in his three innings of work.
Recently two more fans suffered serious injuries as the result of hard-hit foul balls at major league games. One of those fans was hurt at a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. In response, the White Sox have taken it upon themselves to do that which Major League Baseball will not require and extend protective netting. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority are planning to extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles, according to a source.
Exact details will be announced later, but the changes will be made as soon as possible this season.
If recent history holds, they will not be the last team to do it.
Major League Baseball has taken a laissez-faire approach to protective netting over the past several years, requiring nothing even if it has made recommendations to teams to do something. The last time it made a suggestion was in December 2015 when teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. In the wake of that recommendation only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do anything.
It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl was severely injured at Yankee Stadium, that the rest of baseball was inspired to extend protective netting in keeping with MLB’s recommendations. Indeed, it was a land rush, with all 30 teams extending their netting by Opening Day 2018. While a generous interpretation would have everyone seeing the light simultaneously, my slightly more experienced eye saw it as a “don’t be the only team not to have extended netting by the time the next lawsuit hits” approach.
In the wake of the two recent injuries Major League Baseball issued a statement about how it “will keep examining” the matter of additional protective netting while, again, mandating nothing. Now that the White Sox are extending netting to the foul poles, however, it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which other teams follow suit. Sooner or later, enough will likely have done so to create critical mass and make any team which has not done so to make the effort out of self-preservation.
Or, more generously, good sense.